|Tennessee Priest Removed from Ministry after Accusation of Abuse by Southern Indiana Man
By Peter Smith
April 15, 2010
Hours after a Southern Indiana man brought accusations of sexual abuse against a Tennessee Roman Catholic priest, his bishop said the priest would be barred from ministry.
Knoxville Bishop Richard F. Stika said he removed the priest — the Rev. Bill Casey — after confronting him with the accusations on Wednesday night.
Casey did not return a phone message left by The Courier-Journal on Thursday. The Knoxville News-Sentinel reported that Casey would not comment on the allegations but told the newspaper that he would cooperate with the church and police investigations.
Stika said at a Thursday news conference that Casey “admitted to the fact of abuse. … He will never again function as a priest in the Catholic Church.”
Stika also said Casey acknowledged there may be other victims. “If anyone else has been harmed, the church wants to reach out to them,” he said.
The events proceeded rapidly Wednesday after Warren Tucker, 44, traveled from Jeffersonville, Ind., to tell diocesan officials in Knoxville that he allegedly had been abused by Casey. Tucker and the diocese have also alerted police for possible criminal investigations.
Tucker applauded Stika's swift actions. He said he doesn't plan to sue but hopes the diocese will cover his expenses for therapy and travel. He wants Casey held accountable, and he hopes to encourage any other victims to come forward.
"Today's the happiest day in over 30 years," said Tucker, a home inspector. "I’m happy that the truth has come out. I’m happy that people have a chance to heal."
Tucker accused Casey of abusing him in several locations, including short trips to nearby states, until his family moved to the Louisville area when Tucker was around 15 years old. He said he has filed reports with police in Tennessee and North Carolina.
Stika said the diocese had no indications before Wednesday that Casey had sexually abused anyone.
Louisville Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz — Stika’s predecessor in Knoxville from 1999 to 2007 — also had no such information, according to spokeswoman Cecelia Price.
In removing Casey from ministry, Stika was carrying out the Roman Catholic Church’s Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, adopted by bishops in 2002 amid an avalanche of revelations of abuse by priests.
A similar explosion of cases in Europe this year has brought scrutiny on Pope Benedict XVI’s oversight on such cases in past roles as a German archbishop and senior Vatican administrator.
Casey can no longer wear the clerical collar, present himself publicly as a priest or perform sacraments or conduct any other ministry. Stika said the 76-year-old Casey would technically remain a priest and would be “monitored” by the diocese.
Stika added: “Knowing how difficult it is for a victim of sexual abuse to come forward, I want to personally thank Mr. Warren Tucker for his courage” in doing so.
Susan Vance, the eastern Tennessee coordinator for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, supported Tucker in coming forward but added: “We have worked for eight years in eastern Tennessee trying to tell the bishops and the people that the situation is far more serious than they know. This is an illustration of that.”
The alleged abuse happened when eastern Tennessee Catholic churches were part of the Diocese of Nashville. The spokesman of that diocese, Rick Musacchio, said it also had no records of any allegations against Casey. When the Knoxville diocese was created in 1988, all files on priests assigned there were transferred to Knoxville, he said.
Reporter Peter Smith can be reached at (502) 582-4469 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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